Capture the Scottish Skies at The Courtauld Shop

Capture the Movements of the Scottish Sky at The Courtauld Gallery Shop: Behind the scenes with Scottish designer, Kirsteen Stewart.

Kirsteen Stewart opened her boutique and studio in her hometown of Kirkwall in 2009.  Her designs are inspired by her native surroundings and convey the strong relationship she has with her upbringing.  The Nimbus Scarf and Nimbus Bag are reflective of the powerful influence nature can have on artistic realisation, and are currently available in shop or online courtauldshop.com.

Kirsteen_2DSC04625880859 Kirsteen Stewart Nimbus Scarf

Q&A with Kirsteen Stewart

CL: Do you feel a strong connection with your Scottish heritage and how does it reflect in your work?

KS: For me, Scotland is a fundamental inspiration for my work and print designs: Having grown up in Orkney and now with my studio and shop here, the weather, our landscape, skies and nature surround and inspire me.  I see the unpredictable and wild aspects of these themes and respond in terms of movement, scale and bold colours.  I don’t think the world around me is gentle and sweet – if you’ve experienced a storm in Orkney you will understand!  As for heritage I come from a long line of makers and these traditions have been passed down to me.  I use these traditions and my heritage but in a contemporary way.

CL: What is the inspiration behind the Nimbus Scarf and Nimbus Bag?

KS: This is part of the Scottish Skies series.  A study of the land, the sea, the sky, the vastness and the ever-changing colours.  I am in awe of the ephemeral nature of the light, colours and formations.

CL: Do you ever dream of living in a place with a sunnier climate? If so, why? If not, why?

KS: Oh yes, every January!  No, to be honest I love the heat but there is something magical about our summers; how it barely gets dark, the everlasting days, the light and the calm. This makes up for the wildness and harshness of our winters. The seasons are in such direct and fundamental opposition.

CL: I know you enjoy traveling very much, do you have a favourite past destination that particularly influenced your work?

KS: I love travelling from my home, which is very rural, to the city lights; flying over cities is breath taking.  I am just back from Japan and spent most of my time on the night flight looking down over the interlocked cities of China.  The lights make such an intricate pattern like lace over the landscape.  I love imaging what’s going on down below.

CL: What fashion houses did you work at in New York and what was it like? Was there any particular experience that made a lasting impression on you affecting your approach to fashion design?

KS: I love New York, it was such a great place to live and a wonderful experience.  I worked for Elizabeth Powell Leather a small independent company, and for GAP.  It was great to work at companies at opposite ends of the scale. I loved the American can-do attitude, which is very different from the more cautious conservative attitude I see around me in the North of Scotland.  I definitely embraced that!

CL: Can you tell me a little about the print line that is produced in Britain and Italy? Why did you choose those places for production sites?

KS: The fabrics I wanted to work with for the collection sadly weren’t available in Scotland, so I sourced the best possible in Italy and the wider UK. My suppliers have been brilliant to work with and the quality is just perfect.

CL: How do you spend your free time?  Any particular interests?

KS: Like most Orcadians I spend as much time outside in the summer as possible, I surf, I horse ride and I walk.  Total freedom.

CL: What are your plans for the future?

KS: 2016 is going to be exciting.  At the start of the year I am going to Boston, London and Japan.  So lots of travelling, meeting and working with new people, making new connections and of course furthering my collections.  I can’t wait to get started